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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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I Told My Mom She's Dying

Uploaded: Nov 18, 2014
Yesterday I told my mom she's dying. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. We cried. She thanked me for telling her and said she'll miss me so much (you see, this is why I love her so much).

She's actually my MIL, yet she is the mom of my heart.

Last fall she had uterine cancer and went through treatment, which ended in April. She was pronounced cured. I was her advocate with doctors and insurance companies.

This fall she wasn't well, and many tests were ordered. She now has cancer in her lungs, lymph system and bones. Last Friday we found out there are widespread tumors in her brain.

The docs were still talking about treatment and chemo . . . not palliative care, which is where it sounded like we are, based on my experience.

I'm not a doctor, but I am a therapist and have done grief counseling for many years and had family members die of cancer. I thought we were being given false hope, which is different than hope.

False hope does not allow the patient or family to prepare for the death.

I called Mom's primary care doctor who told me square: there's no cure, she needs to decide about quality of life and treatment options (i.e., palliative care). There is no time for a second opinion. Mom likely has weeks left to live (and no one knows if that's six or 16). The doc asked me if I could talk to Mom about these things. I said I could.

I thought Mom would call her PCP yesterday who would tell her, since a quick decision about care was needed. However, Mom decided not to call since I had.

So I had to tell my mom she's dying. After we hung up, I wailed. Then I called my husband, and he came right home so we could be together.

Mom eventually called her PCP who said all the things I had relayed. Her doc said to spend as much time as she can with those she loves.

One of those will be me.

Comments

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Posted by Redwood City Reader, a resident of another community,
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:29 pm

You brought tears to my eyes. Your mother-in-law and your husband are lucky to have you. Wishing you all peace and love as you go through the next few weeks.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Barbara, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Nov 18, 2014 at 9:20 pm

How brave of you. I was not so willing to say the truth even when I knew it, So hard to loose your Mom


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:47 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Thank you.


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Posted by Theresa, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

This hits close to home for me. Though I was not the one to break the news to "the father of my heart" (I love that phrase) who was my father-in-law, I was in the room with the doctor when he and my mother-in-law were informed that the adenocarcinoma in his pancreas was inoperable and untreatable. He was given 6 months and told to put his affairs in order.

He ended up passing away in just 7 weeks, and the last 4 were horrific. I miss him so much but am glad he is no longer in that stage of terror and pain. Palliative care was hit or miss; I am hoping that your mother's care is more successful, and that her time left is peaceful.

My heart goes out to you. I know the road you're on, and the only hope I can offer you is that, with time, there is healing. We are still experiencing our first <fill in blank of holiday, birthday, anniversary celebration> without him. This Friday would have been their 67th wedding anniversary. When I get weepy (which is frequent), I focus on the great life he had, and on the wonderful experiences he had. And on the marvelous son he left for me.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Theresa, I am so sorry for the loss of your father of your heart. I hear that you have found blessings (his son, end of suffering), and for that I am glad. Wow, almost 67 years! As you go toward the first of holidays without him, and all the years to come, find ways to keep a connection with him. Create rituals, tell stories, look at photos, videos, do things he loved to do. Know that it's okay to cry, and okay to laugh. For example, set a place at the table for him for Thanksgiving, and place his photo there. Make a plan of how to spend these special/difficult days. Maybe part of it is with others, maybe some is alone. Find what comforts you. Take good care of yourself: eat well, drink lots of water, exercise, sleep, be social. Limit alcohol as it is a depressant. Breathe. I am breathing, too. If you want any grief resources, please let me know. Thank you for sharing about your father, and sending me your compassionate thoughts.


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Posted by Theresa , a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Thank you, Chandrama. I hadn't thought to set a place for him at Thanksgiving but I will definitely do that. We have been taking good care of my mother-in-law, who (understandably) misses her best friend and love of her life terribly.

I am learning that life goes on. And continually appreciating all that he did for his family.


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Posted by Annonymous, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm

My husband had stage IV brain tumor removed this summer (GBM) Had no symptoms headache dizziness just sudden only hint could not remember his cell and house phone number. Surgeon gave us the grim news 12-18 months to live after operation. Did radiation and Temodar chemo pills (Temozolomide). Our oncologist after viewing a MRI said he could not do anything more that we should call in Hospice. My adult sons about went to pieces. We had a meeting with the surgeon a couple of days later and he said he could not do any further surgery at this point but advised us of a chemo drug Avastin Bevacizumab. We are doing that every two weeks by injection, but we are prepared for the inevitable.

We at some point in our life will be going down that road.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 8:16 am

Beautiful Chandrama and my thoughts are with you and your family. "We may think the dying have nothing left to give us, but quite possible
ly watching someones final days is when we receive their greatest gifts of all."


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Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Dear Anonymous, I am so sorry to hear about your husband's tumor, and the road your family is on, too. We are trying to spend as much time with Mom as we can, do the things that make us happy and go on living our lives, cry at times, and distract ourselves with movies, football games, or reading, exercise, and so on. I wish you all the easiest, least suffering possible. I hope you are able to enjoy Thanksgiving in a meaningful way as a family. Death is a taboo topic in our culture, and we need to be able to talk about it, and how we are doing with it, day by day.


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Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 21, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Thank you, Laura. I am sure that what you wrote is true: I will learn from this journey. I realize that I will have to grieve the death of my mom, yet she has to grieve the loss of everything in her life. That is a stunning and sacred thought for me to mull over.


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Posted by pogo, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Nov 23, 2014 at 8:33 am

pogo is a registered user.

Thank you for writing this. Your Mom (MIL...) is very lucky to have you.


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Posted by Jessica T, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm

So sorry to hear this, Chandrama. Your courage is an inspiration.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 24, 2014 at 7:30 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Pogo and Jessica, Thank you for your kind words and thoughts.


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